Who I’m endorsing for Los Angeles Mayor: Eric Garcetti
My first choice for Los Angeles Mayor was Jan Perry, but Eric Garcetti was by far and beyond my second choice over Wendy Greuel. I could analyze and re-analyze where the two stand on issues just like every other self-appointed pundit in town, but as my readers know, I much prefer to deal with original facts and experiences that you’re not going to find anywhere else.
One of the key reasons I’m NOT supporting Wendy Greuel is because of the City Controllers Office—and her role personally—in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on questionable and even outright bogus prosecutions concerning the Parking Occupancy Tax. After attempting to obtain a tape for months (the audio tapes of the Commission On Revenue Efficiency, CORE) which was in limbo while being transferred to the custody of the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office, I finally got my hands on the audio of a hearing in which the Office of Finance, the Police Commission, and the City Attorney’s office all made presentations about the administration of the Los Angeles City POT (Parking Occupancy Tax). There are about 23 more audio tapes I may have to peruse until I find the specific testimony I’m looking for (more about that shortly), but in the meantime what these three city departments said in the hearings are actually less interesting than what I know that they either knew or should have known and didn’t bother to tell the commission.
After listening to hours of testimony before CORE commissioners, here’s what I didn’t hear that I should have heard if those departments were intent upon being fully forthcoming. As has been many times repeated, The cruelest lies are often told in silence. – Robert Louis Stevenson:
The Office of Finance claimed that it supposedly does not refer cases to the City Attorney for collection or criminal prosecution until it has completed an internal office review with the taxpayer; in the most egregious case which CORE commissioners specifically queried about, the city employee charged with working the case out retired, moved to Arizona, nobody bothered to inform the company which was trying to work out differences over what was owed, and then without warning the City Attorney charged the company and its president in criminal court. Nobody from either the Office of Finance or the City Attorneys office owned up to this behavior to the commissioners.
The Office of Finance claimed that they send out tax assessments to the taxpayers which the taxpayers then have an opportunity to contest. Conveniently, they didn’t bother to admit to the fact (I have personally witnessed the documents, the mailing dates, and accompanied the company representatives to the Office of Finance which could come up with no rational explanation for this and made no effort to fix the problem) that the City of Los Angeles contracted with a Sacramento mailing house to send these tax notices. That mailing house saved up the assessment notices for months at a time and then sent them all in bulk to the taxpayer well after the date that they were allowed to contest the assessment.
When a taxpaying company for the POT no longer owns or operates a parking lot, they are supposed to send in a change notice. Those change notices would go to a post office box of the City of Los Angeles. During court testimony though, not one single Office of Finance witness was able to say who picked up and processed or how those change notices were processed. The company that was being prosecuted, as just one example, had been charged by the Office of Finance for years no matter how many notices they sent in for tens of thousands of dollars a month for the purported parking lot which was in fact the construction site for the new Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, which now houses the unit of the Police Commission which is supposed to grant police permits for the operation of that very location as a parking lot. My contention that the Office of Finance, Police Commission, and City Attorney knew or should have known that the construction site of the Police Headquarters really is an accusation that demands an answer!
Now for the $64,000 – er – make that $65 million question – is, how did the City of Los Angeles, specifically, Wendy Greuel, have the chutzpah to accuse my client, Prestige Parking, Inc. at a press conference (not to be confused with other companies with similar names) of owing $65.1 million in POT right in the middle of a criminal trial over the issue. According to the Los Angeles Downtown News (July 24, 2009):
Tops on the list is Prestige Parking Inc., which operates about 30 parking lots throughout the city and is headquartered in Downtown. The list said Prestige owes $65.1 million [later upped to $72–JBT] in parking occupancy taxes, though company representatives strongly dispute that.
Names do not go up just because of a late bill. Christovale said delinquent taxpayers are sent a certified letter advising them that they have 30 days to settle or pay their debt. Those who do not respond or begin to negotiate a settlement are then posted on the list. Consequences for non-payers can include added penalties, interest and the loss of their business license, Christovale said.
As I have explained, what Christovale claims happens doesn’t really happen. Prestige Parking was in the middle of negotiating with the City – or thought it was while the guy they were negotiating with retired and moved to Arizona – when the City chose to prosecute them criminally.
To get up the gumption to make this accusation—announced by Wendy Greuel personally at a press conference—first, she had to have a way of fabricating the figures. Unless you put $65-$72 million dollars on a single company, she had no way of getting to at least over $100 million that she could blame on “tax scofflaws” to be used as scapegoats for the City budget deficit. These figures were also thrown into contract negotiations with City unions to lay the blame for deficits not on real waste, fraud and mismanagement, but on falsified city financial records showing higher tax receivables than actually existed. How do I know……?
Source Number One (SNO) who I interviewed a couple of years ago is a whistle blower employed by the City of Los Angeles. According to SNO the enormous figures that Wendy Greuel publicly accused Prestige Parking of owing to the City was generated by a “glitch” in the computer programming of the Office of Finance. At least one or more city employees had offered to fix the glitch and were ordered not to fix it. Based upon my interview of this whistle blower I sent a California Public Records Act request to the City and received the following response:
All writings constituting memoranda, reports, notes, cmails, and/or any other communications to and/or within the Office of Finance concerning and/or recommending changes, fixes, and/or corrections to the algorithm, logic (including but not limited to prepositional calculus and/or rules of inference), algebraic equation, mathematical calculus or other methodology used to calculate parking occupancy tax delinquencies authored by:
(a) employees of the City of Los Angeles
(b) independent contractors of the City of Los Angeles
(c) elected officials of the City of Los Angeles
Response to Request #3: The Office of Finance was unable to locate any records that are responsive to Request #3.
Source Number Two (SNT): SNT was an employee of CORE (Commission On Revenue Efficiency, as discussed above). According to SNT, the response to my CPRA request is non-sense because there was a deliberate methodology used by the Office of Finance designed to produce the maximally false POT figures to be levied against Prestige Parking. The Office of Finance computer program was intentionally set to produce a figure under the assumption that all of Prestige’s parking lots were full up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and everybody who had any interest in the matter in the Office of Finance, the City Controller’s office and the City Attorney’s office had to know that little tidbit. SNT told me that this emerged during testimony to CORE which is contained in one of the 23 other audio tapes that I have yet to listen to.
Another way that Wendy Greuel helped to generate these phony figures was by the Controller’s Office hiring complete incompetents as “Investigators.” For example, one “Investigator” who refused to be interviewed by me during the criminal trial proceedings, used to be an IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CID) special agent but left federal service well before staying long enough to get his 20 year pension…..something nobody does unless they’re incompetent and about to be fired. He went into private practice for a couple of years as a certified fraud examiner, couldn’t make it in the private sector, and went to work for the City Controller. Why the city would hire somebody who couldn’t hold a job with the IRS or make it in private practice is beyond me, but they wound up with a guy who wound up testifying that he destroyed the notes he made of his investigation of Prestige.
The notes he destroyed included his notes of a surveillance of a Shell Gas Station at 3201 Wilshire Blvd (Los Angeles CA 90010). His destruction of his notes was convenient because in his sworn testimony in court, he tried to justify why the Office of Finance was assessing tens of thousands of dollars per month on the location even though there was no evidence that Prestige ever owned, operated, or had anything whatsoever to do with the location. Incidentally, this location was about three blocks down the street from an Office of Finance unit and personnel there refused my invitation to walk or drive down the street so I could prove to them that the figures they were generating against Prestige Parking for 3201 Wilshire were obviously bogus. This City Controller “Investigator” also refused to be interviewed by me prior to the criminal trial, something which is his right, but which is also a ground for impeachment of him as a witness since refusal to be interviewed by either side demonstrated his bias against the defense.
While the City was busy fabricating receivables it knew didn’t really exist and pretending that so-called tax scofflaws were to blame for the City’s budget deficit, Wendy Greuel’s Controller’s Office was letting very serious real troughs of money “fall through the cracks” in its audits. As the Los Angeles Times recently pointed out:
Laura J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times May 9, 2013, 10:33 p.m.
During years of cuts to basic services, Los Angeles city officials say, nearly $43 million piled up unnoticed in a Department of Transportation fund because of an accounting error.
The discovery of $42.6 million will be a welcome one-time infusion into next year’s budget, officials said, but has left them worried that other such funds may still be undiscovered.
Had the money been discovered sooner, it might have added a few million dollars annually to the city fund that pays for police, fire and other basic services during years that city employees were forced to take furloughs and pay cuts.
“It frankly makes me a little concerned about what other costs aren’t being accounted for,” City Councilman Paul Krekorian said during a budget meeting Wednesday. “$42.6 million is a lot to fall through the cracks.”
My Wish List for the Next City Administration
Memorializing the Truth About Los Angeles History….
During the racist “Zoot Suit Riots” in 1943 in which soldiers, marines, and sailors attacked Latinos in East Los Angeles during World War II, then-Mayor Fletcher Bowron brazenly urged the military police and shore patrol to unleash military personnel against the Chicano/Mexican community after they had been reined in, because in Bowron’s opinion the community had not yet been taught a sufficient lesson about its status. In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Zoot Suit Riots, a monument should be placed at Fletcher Bowron Square to expose him as a racist and a pig.
In 1942 Japanese Americans were ordered to report to 120 N San Pedro (now 120 N Judge John Aiso), then a Japanese American church and now the home of the East West Players so that they could be hauled off to concentration camps. A monument to the fact that Americans were sent to concentration camps from that location is in order, lest future generations forget.
In 1871, Officer Emil Harris attempted against the odds of a mob of about 100 to save the lives of innocent Chinese immigrants from lynching in the Chinatown area until he and one colleague were beaten and the immigrants were physically taken from their custody. Later, Harris, a Jewish immigrant from Prussia, shot Tiburcio Vasquez during his apprehension near the corner of Kings Road and Santa Monica Blvd and then prevented the posse from lynching him, insisting that Vasquez be brought in for trial. Later, Harris became Los Angeles’s first private investigator. Monuments to the 1871 “Chinese Massacre” and to Harris’s role in standing up to mob violence and lynching are appropriate.
Los Angeles has a monument extolling the alleged virtues of a battle in which a Mormon unit from Utah helped to RE-CONQUER Los Angeles. On September 23, 1846, Los Angelinos, who had peacefully surrendered to American forces of Commodore Stockton during the Mexican American War, revolted against Captain Archibald Gillespie of the United States Marine Corps after he improperly imposed martial law on the City of Los Angeles. Under Captain Jose Maria Flores, Los Angelinos drove the Marines out of Los Angeles, drove American forces out of Southern California all the way from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, and in essence liberated Southern California as free Mexican territory while the front lines of the war still raged in what we now call Mexico. The courageous Los Angelenos who fought against the attempts of the United States to seize territory to extend Southern slavery, widely condemned by Americans from Henry David Thoreau to Abraham Lincoln, should be commemorated with a monument.
2,000 New Cops? Maybe, but what kind of cops do we need?
Wendy Greuel has proposed hiring 2,000 new Los Angeles Police Officers even though street crime is at all time lows and forget the fact that she has made no rational explanation as to how she intends to pay for hiring 2,000 more officers. How about combating crime that doesn’t make it into the daily newspapers or reported about on television instead?
Let’s say that instead of hiring 2,000 police officers, the State of California hired 2,000 Deputy Labor Commissioners to go out and investigate wage, hour, and working condition violations. They could investigate by hanging around in working class industrial areas near industries like textiles where violations are known to be rampant. They could go to after hours bars or restaurants with community organization representatives to simply ask workers whether they’re being exploited, build up evidence for search warrants, conduct raids, and put the fear of god or the devil into companies that have been getting away with exploitation forever.
On the other hand, you could hire a whole bunch of housing inspectors for the County Health Department and put on full time toxic mold inspectors and a laboratory to respond immediately to mold reports. Invariably, these reports are made by the poor. The County Health Department does not and will not take admissible evidence nor test evidence of mold for people who report it. The people who report it can’t afford to hire one of the private firms to get it tested. If County Health won’t do it, why not have the City Rent Stabilization office hire mold inspectors and a laboratory to conduct tests at every unit where a tenant reports landlord harassment or other violations and order immediate rent moratorium on any unit with a toxic mold infestation?
Targeting Economic Crime in Family Law
There is always a crime wave in Family Law proceedings in which mostly males violate Section 270 of the California Penal Code (failure to support a child) which happens to be a crime and Section 118 of the Penal Code, perjury, especially when it comes to hiding assets. No matter how big the lie or how big the value of the assets concealed, the police will simply not investigate and nobody will prosecute, at least under the current crop of leaders we have in city and county government. How about hiring a unit of City Attorney investigators as a task force to combat these crimes against women and children?
Cracking Down on Discrimination in City Employment
For background on what’s been going on during the Villaraigosa administration, see my past postings:
The Bottom Line
With Wendy Greuel’s track record, I have no confidence whatsoever in her ability to make the right choices for administration and public policy in Los Angeles. I have the confidence in Eric Garcetti that something will get done and frankly, I’m confident that his performance has to be a major improvement compared with Antonio Villaraigosa. Eric has pledged to ask all city department heads to re-apply for their jobs…..that’s a great start especially when it comes to the Office of Finance. Wendy Greuel couldn’t possibly do that with the Office of Finance because their administrations have been thick as thieves, quite literally, and lord knows who in the Office of Finance knows what other bodies are buried in the City Controller’s office.